Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing halted until further notice

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UPDATE – MARCH 17 10:01 P.M.

The Slippery Rock University President’s cabinet will meet Thursday morning to discuss the next steps going forward with asymptomatic testing, according to David Wilmes, chief student affairs officer.

Wilmes said the university only has two viable options: continue with the indefinite suspension of testing or find a new lab to work with.

Once a decision has been made, students can expect an update on what to expect by Friday, Wilmes said.

When asked if SRU ships their saliva specimens to the Shippensburg University (SU) lab, Wilmes initially said yes. But, when asked how that is possible because there is not COVID-19 testing lab operating at SU, Wilmes backpeddled.

“Shippensburg is the lab of record,” Wilmes said.

Wilmes added that SU was to have a working lab for SRU to ship specimens to, but they were unable to hire lab technicians.

Shippensburg University officials have yet to comment on why testing was suspended and the status of the lab.


Originally published March 17 at 7:30 p.m.

All asymptomatic testing at Slippery Rock University (SRU) has been temporarily suspended due to a slow down with the contracted lab.

The suspension affects residential students and off-season athletes testing for an unspecified time, according to an email sent out to students on Wednesday.

Spring season athletes use a different provider and will continue to be tested as scheduled.

Students who are having COVID-19 symptoms are still able to be tested through the Student Health Center with no delay according to Kristina Benkeser, director of student health services. Students who are feeling ill should call to set up an appointment.

According to Benkeser, SRU was notified about the extended stoppage Wednesday afternoon, but had an idea something was wrong when they had to cancel testing for Tuesday and Wednesday.

SRU, who partnered with Shippensburg University (SU), was not told the specifics on why testing was suspended.

Announced back in January, SRU was to send its specimens to a lab at SU. Testing was initially delayed then because SU was waiting on equipment for the lab.

But, that lab was not set up and SRU, along with SU, have been sending its saliva samples to Shield T3, a lab in California, according to Benkeser.

In a meeting with the Allegheny Health Network physicians’ group SRU contracted to assist with COVID-19 planning, a review of testing data determined the suspension of testing does not pose a threat to the health and safety of the community, according to Benkeser.

That determination was made based on SRU’s low positivity rate since the university began mass testing. The 15 positive test results account for less than 0.01% of all asymptomatic testing SRU has conducted this semester.

Benkeser said students have been doing a great job staying safe and slowing the spread of the virus.

Even without regular testing, Benkeser said students should continue to wear masks and wash their hands regularly.

The Rocket reached out to both SRU and SU to ask about the specifics of testing and the status of the Shippensburg lab but have not heard back. This story will be updated when they respond.

Joe is a senior communication major with a concentration in converged journalism. This is his first year with The Rocket as assistant news editor. Before joining The Rocket, Joe worked at Butler County Community College’s student newspaper along with a short-lived career as public affairs sergeant (along with many other assignments) with the United States Army. When not covering campus news, Joe spends his weekends with his fiancée and son in Slippery Rock.

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